Holocaust Memorial Day - education
Why should we remember the Holocaust - an event in World history that took place over 60 years ago, before and during World War II? It's an important question.
The answer lies in reflecting on what the Holocaust has to teach us, not only in this generation but in future generations to come.
It is a sad fact, but we must recognise that the crimes committed against humanity during the Holocaust have been repeated elsewhere in the world - Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. The repetition of these human tragedies reminds us that we must be vigilant and continue to learn and remember the lessons of the Holocaust.
Education on the events of the Holocaust and more recent acts of genocide, offers students the opportunity to reflect, discuss and undetake research into a range of issues. These issues help to raise awareness and understanding of the events of the Holocaust as a warning for all humanity. By recognising that such events could happen again, anywhere and at any time, we ensure that our society is vigilant in opposing racism, anti-semitism, sectarianism and other forms of bigotry.
We are all different and we must accept that we cannot all be alike. Everyone is an individual with individual preferences, tastes, values and beliefs.
Each of us has the right to expect that he or she will be accepted as a full member of the society to which they belong and that they will not be discriminated against or persecuted because of their ethnic origin, skin colour, religious or political belief.
Education is important in highlighting the values of a tolerant and diverse society based firmly on the premise of equal rights, universal dignity and respect for all. This was not the case in Nazi society. Those who were considered different were marked out for persecution. The Nazi ideology espoused the concept of a superior or ‘master race’, known as ‘Aryans’.
People who did not fit this model were considered inferior and deemed unfit to be considered part of society. This meant that, Jews, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), people with disabilities, homosexuals and others were systematically removed from society to be persecuted or killed simply because they were different.
Jews were singled out for special attention and made to wear a yellow star to signify that they were Jews and different from other people. Anti-semitism was to become accepted state policy in Nazi Germany and by a series of infamous laws, known as the ‘Nuremburg Laws’, German Jews were to be denied citizenship in their own country.
Remembering the Holocaust is relevant to the process of eliminating prejudice and discrimination. This is because all of the worst aspects of humanity and injustice are reflected starkly and horrifically in this sad episode of our shared history.
It is not enough though to remember events of the twentieth century, we must look to the future and make a commitment to oppose victimisation, racism and genocide. We all have an individual responsibility towards our fellow citizens. Regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion or sexuality to we should act in a way which does not harm others; to be active citizens and not to stand by while others are being victimised or persecuted. We should remember that:-
“He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it” - George Santayana ‘The Life of Reason’ - 1905
There are two types of educational resource available:
A resource for post-primary schools in Northern Ireland to study the Holocaust within the context of the new curriculum for learning and teaching in history. This is suitable for Year 10 pupils.
An Education Pack was produced for the UK National Holocaust Memorial Day which was held in Belfast in 2004. The pack is suitable for Primary 7 and Key Stage 3/4 Levels.